Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope


(Edited to remove a possible spoiler)

At last, I have finished; I have completed all six novels of the Barsetshire Chronicles!  It's more than 3,000 pages, more if you count the introductions and endnotes!!  I started back in 2009, but I really hit my stride last year, finishing Doctor Thorne, Framley Parsonage, and The Small House at Allington.  I started The Last Chronicle of Barset the day after Christmas and read it in bits and pieces for the past month.

If you're a Trollope reader, this is the book that ties up all the loose ends in Barsetshire.  Nearly every major character from the previous five books makes an appearance, from the first book to the last, and some new characters as well.  The reader sees how all the characters fit in together in the world of Barset, especially among the clergy (though I never could remember the difference between the dean, the bishop, and the archbishop.  Oh well).

Basically, the story starts out with a scandal, a mystery that brings all the characters together.  Reverend Crawley, a minor character from Framley Parsonage, has been accused of stealing a check for 20 pounds to pay his butcher's bill.  He refuses to get legal help and is arrested for theft.  Barsetshire is abuzz with the news, and people take sides, many of them jumping to conclusions long before the trial.  (I'm talking about you, Mrs. Proudie!)

This is further complicated by the fact that his eldest daughter Grace is the love interest of Henry Grantly, son of the Archdeacon, and grandson of Mr. Harding, the main character of The Warden.  The archbishop won't hear of his son marrying her while her father is under a cloud of suspicion, causing friction in the family;  meanwhile, we learn the fate of Johnny Eames, and many of the other Barset characters, including Dr. Thorne, Miss Dunstable, and the wicked witch of Barset, Mrs. Proudie.  The only character I really missed was the oily Obadiah Slope of Barchester Towers, who, sadly, makes no appearance.  And a few new characters are thrown in as well, just to thicken the plot.

I really liked this book and the way it tied up all the loose ends of Barsetshire.  However, I did feel sometimes that it was dragging on too long.  It's nearly 900 pages!  Honestly, the story of Josiah Crawley could have been trimmed a bit -- pages and pages are devoted to the fact that he won't come to his own defense and hire a lawyer because he's a little too ethereal to bother himself with everyday problems like paying bills.  I also thought some of the side stories were a little unnecessary.  And I still wanted to strangle Lily Dale. (Highlight if you want to know the answer).

Nevertheless, this is a really satisfying ending to the series.  I'm quite proud to have finished it -- now on to the Pallisers, another six-volume series, this one with a more political angle.  I'm sad to be leaving Barchester but I look forward to reading more Trollope.  I'll probably try and read a couple of the stand-alone novels before I tackle another series of Victorian triple-deckers.

I have another 40 novels by Anthony Trollope to enjoy!!  Any suggestions?  So far, the only one I've read (besides the Barset novels) is The Way We Live Now, which I absolutely loved.  Which of Trollope's stand-alone novels are the best?

11 comments:

  1. Congratulations on finishing! I am only part way through the series (I finished Framley Parsonage earlier this month) but love Trollope's Barsetshire. Since I've only read one of Trollope's non-Barsetshire books so far (The American Senator, which I loved but I know others do not rank as highly), I can't provide any input on which are the best but I'll be interested to see what you pick up next!

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    1. I really enjoyed Framley, even though I wanted to smack Mark Robards. I'm a little sad to be leaving Barsetshire behind.

      I've heard good things about The American Senator. I'm curious to know how an American politician fits into Trollope's world. I have fifteen unread novels by Trollope on my shelves, but sadly, not that one. I'll get to it eventually though!

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  2. Congrats! I've been collecting these titles so I can read the series as well. I've only read The Warden, but Barchester Towers is one that is on my radar for this year. :) Sadly, I haven't read any other Trollope, but I'm looking forward to your thoughts!

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    1. Barchester Towers is really good. I thought The Warden started out pretty slow, but it's definitely better to read them in order. It's a great series. Different than Dickens, I wish more people read him.

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  3. Well done!
    I just skimmed your review because I have only read The Warden and Barchester Towers so far. I was kind of hoping to real ALL four of the remaining novels this year, but I think that is probably not going to happen; maybe just two then.

    I love the Warden because I love Mr. Harding so much. He is adorable, especially when he plays his imaginary violoncello when he gets upset.

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    1. I managed to finish three in the series. Doctor Thorne was my favorite but I really liked Framley Parsonage too. The Small House at Allington was good but I didn't care for the ending.

      It was really great to catch up with Mr. Harding!

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  4. If you enjoy Trollope, you might enjoy the discussions we have over on trollope@yahoogroups.com We are finishing up The Eustace Diamonds, second in the six-part Palliser novels series. I think Plantagenet Palliser makes a cameo appearance when he was putting some moves on Griselda Grantly. This attention nearly wrecked her engagement to the Marquis of Hartletop until her mother put her straight. Anyway, we have lots of fun with the Trollope novels, the people on the list are civil, and you would be welcome.

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    1. I actually belong to the group but I could never coordinate with what I was reading!! I'll have to start up again, thanks!

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  5. I've only read the first of the six so far so I ran straight down here to the bottom of the post to add 'congratulations' and 'hope you enjoyed them'... with my eyes closed in case of spoilers. Will definitely come back to add something more useful to the discussion after finishing the series later in the year! :)

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    1. There was a hint of a spoiler, but I've edited it. I hope you enjoy it!! Barchester is just wonderful and I loved the others as well. I look forward to reading your reviews!!!!

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  6. Congratulations on finishing this major reading project--I'm glad to hear the series hangs together so well. I'm reading Dr Thorne later this year, and I was a bit worried that after the first two being so connected, the rest would not have recurring characters.

    Trollope certainly was prolific--after the Barset novels I plan to read the Palliser series.

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